IF YOU'VE WRITTEN and typed all the words, you can't do an effective job of editing or proofreading
that writing because your mind knows what you meant to say,
and when you read what you've written, your eyes will see
only what your mind tells them to see.
Around the World
Man Struck by Lightning Faces Battery Charge
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
Clinton Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Enraged Cow Injures Farmer With Ax
Humorous Rules for Writing Good
Each pronoun agrees with their antecedent.
Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
Don't use no double negatives.
A writer mustn't shift your point of view.
Don't use a run-on sentence you got to punctuate it.
About sentence fragments.
Don't use commas, which aren't necessary.
Check to see if you any words out.
Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.
Use apostrophe's right.
Last but not least, lay off clichés.
Fun to Know
"Typewriter" is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on
one row of the keyboard.
"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand, but let me
point out that my name, BARBARA BRABEC, could be one of the longest personal
names that can be typed with only the left hand.
Did you know that no word in the English language rhymes with month, orange,
silver, or purple?
Barbara Brabec's Editing Checklist
Common Writing Errors
(or Why You Need an Editor)
Even the most careful writer is likely to make some of the following common writing errors:
Are you sure about your punctuation? Every little mark has a
meaning of its own, and where you place (or forget to place)
each mark can make a BIG difference in how readers will judge the quality of your writing.
Many writers struggle with commas (too many, not enough, or used in the wrong
place); hyphenate two words that are now commonly written as one; use quotations
marks incorrectly; mix up colons
semicolons; overuse exclamation points (which should be used rarely, if ever); and
Apostrophes are used to indicate possession (Sam's book or
the peoples' voice),
or to form contractions (can't, shouldn't),
but NEVER to indicate plural. (It's not the 1970's but
not DVD's but DVDs.)
Are all words properly capitalized or italicized? There are more than a dozen capitalization rules, so when in doubt, check
a grammar book for guidance. Italics are used to distinguish certain words or
others in the text; also for titles of things that can stand by themselves, such
as a book or movie. Articles, poems, and TV shows, on the other hand, should be
placed between quotation marks. In a book manuscript, don't use underlining when you mean
italics. This is an outdated typing rule.
Are you using the right words? As Mark Twain once said, "The
difference between the right word and the almost right word
is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."
While the right words in a brochure, advertisement or news
release can motivate someone to buy your product or service,
the wrong words can just as easily turn them off. (As any
copywriter will tell you, some words have more sales power
Then there is the matter of choosing words
that are grammatically correct, such as that/which;
who/whom; their/there/they're; to/too; further/farther; affect/effect; fewer/less; your/you're, and
its/it's. Using the wrong word will make educated readers wonder about your
Note: When English is not your first language, it's very
easy to use the wrong words here and there, and all the more
important to have an experienced editor check your writing
"Some slips of the pen are plainly typographical errors.
Proof-reading, alas, is a losing, if not a lost art. Other
embarrassments stem from ignorance or overconfidence.
"But the vast majority of our hoo-haws result from sheer
carelessness. We take our eye off the page, and behold: A
Methodist church in South Carolina is a non-prophet
organization, and John Wilkes Booth was responsible for the
assignation of Abraham Lincoln." - © James J. Kilpatrick, The Writer's Art (syndicated
newspaper column). Used by permission.
Do you sometimes transpose words? Now that so many writers
are relying on a spell-checker, it's very
easy to miss words that have been transposed. They are still correctly spelled, but they're the wrong words
(e.g., form/from, for/fro).
Are your subjects and verbs in agreement? Singular
subjects need singular verbs; plural subjects need plural verbs. Always focus on
the subject. It's not "One of the boxes ARE missing," but "One of the boxes IS
your pronouns and antecedents in agreement? The most common error is using
"they" or "their" instead of the necessary gender-specific word. Example: "If
a business owner goes broke today, it may not be their fault," has to be ". . . his or her fault." (When this gets clumsy, it's often easier to take the
plural route: "If business owners go broke today, it may not be their
Are all the words and letters you meant to include actually
there? Our brains often move faster than our fingers can
type the words, so it's very easy to drop a word from a sentence, or a letter at
the end of a word. (A missing "s" or "d," for example, will affect present/past
tense or cause singular/plural errors.)
Are all your sentences complete and properly ordered in
paragraphs? Avoid run-on sentences—two independent
clauses that can stand alone, but are run together without a proper connector (a punctuation mark or a connecting word such as and, or, but, so, etc.).
Long paragraphs should be broken up to make the reading easier. In nonfiction, make a new paragraph when you shift your focus or change
topics; in fiction, also make a new paragraph when the scene changes and
when a different person is speaking.
The Trouble with Spell-Check
and Grammar Checkers
REMEMBER THAT SPELL-CHECK finds only misspelled words
according to its idea of what's correct. First, your
spell-check dictionary probably doesn't include terms common
to your particular industry or even your country. (For
example, both Word and WordPerfect spell-checkers often
suggest using British spelling instead of American.) More
important, spell-check isn't going to point out when you've
used the wrong word (incorrect meaning), or made a typo
(an/and, not/now, the/them, to/too, if/of, etc.).
As for grammar checkers, while they are sometimes better
than nothing, you need a good understanding of grammar to
use them because some of the suggestions they make are
Copyright © 2000-2016 by Barbara Brabec.
All Rights Reserved.
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